Gradually, and then suddenly
From short and sweet AI, I’m Dr. Peper, and today I’m talking about The Singularity is Near.
In my research for the my flash show on Cyborgs, I came across Dion Dalton Bridge’s interesting article in which she referenced a quote from The Sun Also Rises where a character is asked, how did you go bankrupt? And he responds, “ Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly. “ It’s a highly appropriate description of the current technological tsunami taking place previously described as The Singularity is Near.
Ray Kurzweil is probably the world’s foremost futurist and has written several books about AI and intelligent machines but the one that has hit home perhaps the most is The Singularity is Near. He emphasizes that technology is accelerating at an exponential rate which means that in this century we will not experience 100 years of progress but more like 20,00 years of progress.
He presents the singularity as the moment during this time when human intelligence merges with artificial intelligence and vastly enhance our human capabilities. The word singularity is taken from the mathematical term referring to a value that does not have a finite limitation. So with the Singularity, human intelligence augmented by AI will no longer be limited but can accomplish the infinite. As he says in his book “The Singularity will represent the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but transcends our biological roots.”
Needless to say Ray Kurzwel is a transhumanist and some consider the book to be the transhumanist manifesto. But what are some of the specifics of what happens?
Well nanotechnology plays a big role with robots the size of red blood cells inserted in the body augmenting or replacing our major organ systems and allowing the complete scanning of the brain to create a hybrid intelligence previously unknown. Ultimately, he predicts, human intelligence will be mainly non- biological and more of our experiences will take place in virtual reality than in the physical world. This includes having a “back-up” of our consciousness if needed, never getting sick and most importantly, we will never have to die.
His is a radically optimistic and genuinely inspiring vision of the future course of human development but raises many concerns over loss of jobs, increasing inequality, and who decides how we use this technology. Yet one thing to remember is that of 147 predictions Kurzweil has made since the 1990s, fully 115 have turned out to be correct, that’s an 86% accuracy rate.
And BTW, how near is the singularity? In the book, Kurzweil says 2045.